After working in the violence reduction sector for 7 years by 2014, I noticed something very disturbing. What I noticed led me to make a prediction five years ago, that in 3-5 years violence in the UK prison system and in the UK in general would be at record levels. Those predictions came true, as worrying as that might be, if there are no changes in policy, what I foresee in the next 5 years is truly horrifying.
For information on the epidemic nature of violence and why it is a public health issue please see this episode of London Real where I discussed the work at HMYOI Cookham Wood in 2013.
The issue - The Kraking Effect - By Jason Featherstone
There are absolutely no meaningful national interventions to tackle the contagion of violence at the time of writing, this leads to:
High rates of violence in prisons - People without violent offending in their behaviour become exposed to violence in prison, this exposure and infection then leads to more people exhibiting violence, increasing levels of violence in the prison and critically, increasing the number of people leaving prison with violent behaviour
Ergo we have a situation where more people exhibiting violent behaviour are leaving prison than those who entered it
These people are then distributed across the UK - There are processes in place that mean prisoners cannot always return to their locale on release due to criminal connections or risks to the public or themselves. They are then placed in different parts of the country, many of these different locations at the time experienced low levels of violence
The placement of people exhibiting violent behaviour in a new area then leads to the contagion of violence spreading to that new area - people traditionally without violent behaviour then start to exhibit violent behaviour - new violent areas are created
With no meaningful community intervention this leads to gang crackdowns in all major cities and nationally - what follows is an increase of people then being jailed who exhibit violent behaviour which in turn increases the number of people exhibiting violence in the prison - the cycle then repeats.
What is concerning is - without any meaningful intervention the contagion of violence is being systematically spread throughout the UK increasing levels of violence in new areas - without intervention we will have an unmanageable situation (I might argue we have already reached that status) of violence of levels that will not be anticipated in an unprecedented number of locations, cities, and areas in the UK
I believe what is happening is that there are numerous knock on effects of this disaster, a significant and extremely troubling one is the increase in school violence. As more areas become infected with the contagion of violence more children witness violence, more are exposed and infected by the contagion.
I predict if that nothing changes and no meaningful national reforms take place we will see levels of violence that will be horrifying. After studying the initial conditions for some time, these headlines are indicative of the years ahead.